I don’t buy this argument, in part because I agree with Furedi that something profound changes at birth: The woman’s bodily autonomy is no longer at stake. But I also think that the value of the unborn human increases throughout its development. Furedi rejects that view, and her rejection doesn’t stop at birth. As she explained in our debate last fall, “There is nothing magical about passing through the birth canal that transforms it from a fetus into a person.” The challenge posed to Furedi and other pro-choice absolutists by “after-birth abortion” is this: How do they answer the argument, advanced by Giubilini and Minerva, that any maternal interest, such as the burden of raising a gravely defective newborn, trumps the value of that freshly delivered nonperson? What value does the newborn have? At what point did it acquire that value? And why should the law step in to protect that value against the judgment of a woman and her doctor?
It’s also worth noting that the arguments for infanticide cited here apply equally to anyone who is under the care of others: the seriously ill, the gravely injured, the feebly elderly. The logic of the authors’ position is quite straightforward: if you are so severely limited in your physical or mental abilities that caring for you imposes burdens upon me that I do not wish to take on, then I am free to declare that you are no longer a person and end your life.
I suspect that many of us who stick with formal religion are not all that much more settled in our beliefs than the “noes” and the “nones” in the piece, or any less aware of the preponderance and cultural sex appeal of the arguments against. Imagine no religion? We do this all the time. We have to. What makes us stick with it, to begin with, is our sense that when it comes to religious questions it doesn’t make sense – in history, in our society, in our families, in our individual lives – to leave religion out.Paul Elie commenting on the recent Adam Gopnik piece
Tolkien sleeps in dressing-room with bath in corner, not to disturb Edith with late work & snoring. Flannel trousers, tweed jacket… has to light stove in his study a.m. for tutorials… Lectures in East School… bell of Merton quarter a mile away strikes the hour, gathers up notes, clears out for next lecturer… shops at the Covered Market in High St for sausages… Big typewriter with interchangeable type, Anglo-Saxon letters… Talked fast & not clearly, moved from idea to idea v fast… tended to talk in monologues… would dress us in Icelandic bearskin rug as polar bear, or as A/Saxon warrior… Friendship with C S Lewis… companionship between men… C S Lewis drawn to Xtianity by T’s explanation of it as a ‘myth that is true’.Notes by Penelope Fitzgerald before her death in 2000 for an unwritten novel to be called Why (or How) We Were Very Young, about Oxford in the 1930s, with Tolkien and Lewis as characters. From Hermione Lee, Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life (2014)
Steve Holmes, "Serious thinking does not always lead to the same conclusion"
Steve Chalke was kind enough to tweet a link to my piece on his invitation to a global conversation; in the same tweet he linked to a piece by Brian McLaren on the same theme. Brian’s piece was entitled ‘The Biblical cat is out of the fundamentalist bag’, which mostly left me straining to think of mentions of cats in the Bible (I don’t think there are any – several lions of course…); the piece was mostly a series of links to interesting posts elsewhere; at the end, though, McLaren writes:This form of argument (‘if you think seriously about X, you will change your mind’) is remarkably common in both academic and church discourse; it seems to me to have two fundamental problems: first, it is simply false; and second, it is utterly unrealistic (apart from those two issues, I’m completely with it…)…the real question is this: in the privacy of people’s own hearts, will they (will you, will I?) have the courage to think, rethink, question, and consider the possibility that the conventional view of the Bible is in need of radical rethinking – not to reduce confidence in the Bible, but to discover a wiser, more just, more honest, and more proper confidence?
A simple man,
He liked the crease on the water
His cast made, but had no pity
For the broken backbone
Of water or fish.
One of his pleasures, thirsty,
Was to ask a drink
At the hot farms;
Leaving with a casual thank you,
As though they owed it him.
I could have told of the living water
That springs pure.
He would have smiled then,
Dancing his speckled fly in the shallows,
Instead of yet another app that could tell us how much money we can save by monitoring our exercise routine, we need an app that can tell us how many people are likely to lose health insurance if the insurance industry has as much data as the NSA, most of it contributed by consumers like us.Evgeny Morozov, quoted here
On Moral Fictions
I find MacIntyre’s arguments for the claim that “rights” are a fiction reasonably persuasive. It is the easiest thing in the world to point, as MacIntyre does, to all of the confusion—both practical and conceptual—wrought in contemporary moral discourse by the idea of a “right.” (Indeed, when JetBlue issues a Customer Bill of Rights [pdf] that says that passengers whose departure is delayed more than three hours have a right to a free in-flight movie, you know that you are no longer dealing with a particularly rigorous philosophical concept.)
However, if I come across a group of Christians doing their best to defend an unborn child’s “right to life,” I don’t necessarily think that the first thing I need to do is to offer a lengthy disquisition from After Virtue—or suggest Nietzsche as an unlikely but powerful ally in our war against the bankrupt modern concept of “human rights.”
Rights language is problematic, and in various ways it distorts our understanding of what it means to obey the natural and Divine law. But that group of Christians, trying to convince the surrounding culture that the unborn child has a “right to life,” are probably using the language that will best communicate a real moral truth to the morally confused culture that they live in.
Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, one of the priests who instructed me for confirmation in the Church of England, recounting her experience with George Herbert
Certainly [George Herbert’s] poems are unashamedly intelligent. They are an example of the metaphysical school of poetry, which deliberately piled metaphor upon metaphor, and drew those metaphors from the cutting edge of contemporary science and philosophy. They flatter the reader by assuming a breadth and depth of political, theological and scientific knowledge.
They are also full of genuine emotion. This makes them feel much more modern than their date would suggest. For Herbert, religion is never simply a set of dogmatic assertions, or a collection of cultural practices, as historical religion is sometimes caricatured. Nobody reading these poems can be left in any doubt as to Herbert’s emotional engagement with his subject matter. The question Herbert’s poetry raises is eternally contemporary. The poems don’t ask us “Is this true?” but “How do I feel about this?”
It is this question that slipped under my guard as a teenager. It was easy to dismiss the truth of the 20 impossible things that religion seemed to expect me to believe before breakfast. It was much harder to dismiss my own emotional reaction to these poems: the beauty, the yearning, the enticing danger. They left me with the sense that I was standing on a cliff, staring out to sea, hearing marvellous tales of lands beyond the horizon and wondering if they were, after all, just fairy tales or whether the intensity with which the tales were told was evidence that the teller had indeed seen a barely imagined kingdom.
Of course the Gospel is inherently embedded in Church liturgies, in the Christian calendar, and much else besides. Even so, God’s primal love and salvation for humans are so easy to forget that the liturgical words and practices readily become rote. We humans easily focus, not on the Church’s truly Great News, but instead on our own problems, interests, and efforts. This self-oriented idolatry is an ever-present temptation, keeping us away from living in the freedom and love in Christ.
But the ever-evangelizing Christian Gospel—not our little “doings” and “tryings”—is ultimately what reality is about. Therefore, every Catholic homily must recurrently, continually, and unfailingly draw the attention of its hearers back to the central fact of all reality—God’s eternal love for and reconciliation of humanity in Jesus Christ—as the basis for everything else that is said and done.
Christian Smith, "To Improve Catholic Homilies. Part 2: Less Moralism, More Gospel" in Church Life: A Journal for New Evangelization vol. 1.3
Every word of this article is equally applicable to Anglican homilies.
Michael Dirda, "Lane Cooper’s Lessons" (via matthewwmason)
“The best-read man is the one who has oftenest read the best things; who goes through Homer, Plato, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, and the Bible, once a year.” (He calculated that it would take just ten pages a day.) Ideally, one should own these books, so that their sentences can be underlined, margins scribbled in, endpapers covered with comments and reflections. Serious reading, after all, should be active, focused, engaged—and Cooper suggested some ways to make it so.
First, read aloud—at least some of the time. “Every line of Shakespeare, every line of Milton, is meant to be pronounced, cannot be duly appreciated until it is pronounced.” Second, read slowly. “Take ample time. Pause where the punctuation bids one pause; note each and every comma; wait a moment between a period and the next capital letter. And pause when common sense bids you pause, that is, when you have not understood.” This led to the third dictum: “Read suspiciously. Reread. What a busy man has time to read at all, he has time to read more than once.” Elsewhere, he added another piece of advice: Learn by heart at least a few poems and passages of prose.
This is my commonplace book and sometime-journal.
I blog at SpiritualFriendship.org.
My book is here: Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.
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